British lead the way in hi-fi revolution

YOU can hang them on your wall, paint them, wallpaper over them, make them as small as a credit card or as big as a ceiling tile, mount them underwater or in cars. What else but flat loudspeakers - unveiled yesterday by a British company which aims to revolutionise home hi-fi from this summer. The technology used to make the revolutionary speakers, which are less than two centimetres thick, emerged in 1993 from a British military project to soundproof helicopter gearboxes.

What the team discovered was that flat speakers which would give authentic audio reproduction were feasible. You simply had to solve a fourth-order differential equation including eight or so variables, including the size and material properties of the speaker.

"The principle is like a piano soundboard," explained Stan Curtis, chairman of the loudspeaker company Wharfedale yesterday. "A lone piano string doesn't make much noise. But the soundboard resonates, so you can hear one piano throughout the Albert Hall. Conventional loudspeakers are like violins - you need more of them to make more noise."

The flat Wharfedale NXT speakers will cost about pounds 200 from retailers like Dixons and Curry's. They will not suit the top-end audiophile - for whom the joys of positioning speakers and producing a room where an imaginary orchestra's members can be pinpointed are essential. But The Independent's (fairly unscientific) listening test suggested that the new speakers could quickly replace the wooden boxes that have cluttered living room floors and bookcases ever since hi-fi meant having more than a Dansette and a stack of records skewered above it. "True, it won't satisfy every hi-fi buff," said Mr Curtis. "But this is only the first generation. These are aimed at the average enthusiast. It doesn't give you that pin-point sound, but it offers a great "surround" sound, which is especially good for home cinema."

Other obvious applications include announcement systems and loudspeakers for computers - both of which Wharfedale is already demonstrating.

The first prototypes, produced with the Defence Research Agency (DERA) in Farnborough, used materials such as carbon fibre and aircraft-quality aluminium which meant they cost about pounds 800 each. But on discovering the soundboard principle, the team cut the costs so that parts for the new speakers cost just pounds 5 each.

Wharfedale has licensed the technology from NXT, the company set up to develop the DERA discovery. Essentially, each speaker consists of a transducer which excites resonance in the air cells of a honeycomb matrix between the panels.

Mr Curtis said: "People are always criticising us in Britain for having great ideas but not getting them into production. Well, here's one which we have."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
Brendan Rodgers is confident that Sterling will put pen to paper on a new deal at Anfield
footballLIVE: Follow all the latest from tonight's Capital One quarter-finals
Voices
Lucerne’s Hotel Château Gütsch, one of the lots in our Homeless Veterans appeal charity auction
charity appeal
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hughes (James Nesbitt) after his son Olly disappeared on a family holiday in France
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
News
people

Jo from Northern Ireland was less than impressed by Russell Brand's attempt to stage a publicity stunt

Voices
Jimmy Mubenga died after being restrained on an aircraft by G4S escorts
voicesJonathan Cox: Tragedy of Jimmy Mubenga highlights lack of dignity shown to migrants
Arts and Entertainment
Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels ride again in Dumb and Dumber To
filmReview: Dumb And Dumber To was a really stupid idea
Life and Style
tech
News
Not quite what they were expecting
news

When teaching the meaning of Christmas backfires

Arts and Entertainment
Angelina Jolie and Sony Pictures co-chairman Amy Pascal at the Golden Globes in 2011
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Helpdesk Analyst

£25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established media firm based in Surrey is ...

Ashdown Group: Java Developer - Hertfordshire - £47,000 + bonus + benefits

£40000 - £470000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: Java Developer / J2EE Devel...

Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Director - London - £70,000

£70000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Head of Finance - Financial Controller - Fina...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive - Nationwide - OTE £65,000

£30000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small technology business ...

Day In a Page

Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum
France's Front National and the fear of a ‘gay lobby’ around Marine Le Pen

Front National fear of ‘gay lobby’

Marine Le Pen appoints Sébastien Chenu as cultural adviser
'Enhanced interrogation techniques?' When language is distorted to hide state crimes

Robert Fisk on the CIA 'torture report'

Once again language is distorted in order to hide US state wrongdoing
Radio 1’s new chart host must placate the Swifties and Azaleans

Radio 1 to mediate between the Swifties and Azaleans

New chart host Clara Amfo must placate pop's fan armies
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'It's life, and not the Forces, that gets you'

The head of Veterans Aid on how his charity is changing perceptions of ex-servicemen and women in need
Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Torture: It didn't work then, it doesn't work now

Its use is always wrong and, despite CIA justifications post 9/11, the information obtained from it is invariably tainted, argues Patrick Cockburn
Rebranding Christmas: More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence

Rebranding Christmas

More public bodies are refusing to give the festival its name for fear of causing offence. They are missing the point, and we all need to grow up
A Greek island - yours for the price of a London flat

A sun-kissed island - yours for the price of a London flat

Cash-strapped Greeks are selling off their slices of paradise
Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

Pogues could enjoy fairytale Christmas No 1 thanks to digital streaming

New system means that evergreen songs could top the festive charts
Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys on his rock odyssey, and the trouble with independence

Prince of Wales: Gruff Rhys

He is a musician of wondrous oddity. He is on a perpetual quest to seek the lost tribes of the Welsh diaspora. Just don't ask Gruff Rhys if he's a national treasure...